April 24, 2005
Worship That Pleases God, Part 1
Over the last couple of weeks I have presented to you what I believe are the marks of true worship in both the individual and in the congregation. True worship by the individual should be marked by 1) The confession of Sin, 2) An Active faith in God, 3) Confident prayer to God, 4) The fruit of Righteousness in the life, 5) Verbal praise to God, 6) A Content heart, 7) A willingness to suffer for righteousness without complaint, and 8) A clear witness to others of God’s mercy, grace and love.
When the individuals in a congregation are truly worshiping God and giving evidence of that, then when they meet together they will also give evidence of true worship. That is what I talked about last week. When the whole church is truly worshiping God, then God Himself is glorified, Believers are purified, the Church itself is edified and unbelievers are evangelized.
It is fine to talk about the evidence of true worship, but what do you do if those things are not really in your life the way you know they need to be. For that reason this morning I want to talk about what underlies true worship. I have already mentioned it in passing and alluded to it in past sermons, but today I want to concentrate on it. How can a person develop true worship of God and be characterized by the evidences of it? The answer may or may not surprise you, for it is actually very simple.
GOD MUST BE FIRST IN EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR LIFE!
Now that is simple to state, and it is a simple concept to understand. It is even a simple way to live, and if we would all do it we could live happily ever after without any problems. However, there is one difficulty. It is directly against our fallen, sinful nature so we fight against it. We want to be the center of our universe.
In some ways the problem is aggravated in our culture because it feed the selfishness innate to our fallen nature by its promotion and high esteem of individualism, independence and demand for “rights.” Our national character is so centered on this that those who demand their “rights” to be on the government welfare dole think that in doing so they are actually gaining independence as individuals. We also have a rising disregard, if not disdain, for authority with the promotion of the idea that “No one is going to tell us what to do!”
Please do not think that we as Christians are not affected by these things. There is a reason that Paul commanded us in Rom. 12:2 to not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Paul knew that society will try to pressure you into its mold. And the simple fact is that you will be molded by society unless you are consciously working against that pressure and seeking to be transformed by having every thought taken captive to obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
Now, I am not blaming society or using it for an excuse. I am simply saying that our society feeds the selfishness that is naturally within us. We do not need society’s pressure to want to be the captain of our own ship and masters of our own fate. We naturally want to decide for ourselves what is best for us while building up our own kingdom. Inherent within the human heart is the desire to be accepted by others while controlling everything around us.
In practical terms it comes out this way. I want you to like me just the way I am without any changes. I do not want you to tell me what to do. I do not want you to correct my faults. I want you to overlook the warts and think I am perfect and beautiful. However, I do want you to change so that I will like you better, and I do want to correct you and tell you what to do. Does that sound hypocritical? You will not believe that is it as long as you convince yourself that what you want for others is for their own good!
Proverbs 16:25 tells us the truth, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” I need a God that will tell me what to do. I need a savior that will make a way for me to be forgiven for all my sin and selfishness. I need the Holy Spirit to dwell within me so that I can change and be what I am supposed to be. I need other believers who will “spur me on to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24) as well as correct me and restore me when I am in err (Gal. 6:1). I am not the captain of my own ship. Without Jesus Christ I am more like a galley slave on a leaky ship rowing as hard as I can with little understanding that I am heading for destruction on a reef. With Jesus Christ, I am a first mate following my Captain’s orders and under full sail for the port of heaven.
I have already pointed out in an earlier sermon that God does not need us for anything – including worship. He is glorious by His very nature, and to worship Him is a privilege that He grants to us. He does not need us, but we desperately need Him.
The foundation for true worship starts at that very point. I need God. I don’t mean that I need God for a little assistance now and then. I mean I need God for every aspect of my life. The big things and the small things. I need to have a craving for God. How much of a craving? David put it well in Psalm 41:1,2, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” I am sure most of us have experienced times when we were like that deer. Think about some hot day when you sweating because you have been working or playing hard. How much did you want a drink. There have been times when my mouth has gone beyond that “cotton” stage to where my throat feels like it is shriveling. My mind goes from a simple notice that I could use a drink to a focusing on one thing – water. That should be the description of our longing for God. Does your soul pant for God? Until it does your worship of Him will always be less than it should be, for it is only with that foundation, that starting point, that we truly put God at the center of everything we do, say, think and feel.
How does such a craving start? With the recognition that God is the creator and I am but His creature made by Him for His own purposes. God has put a yearning, an awareness in us at birth, that something is not right with the world, that something is missing in my life, and that there is more to reality than what meets my physical senses. Some theologians have called this the “God shaped vacuum.” It is the reason that humans are innately religious. It drives people for a search for something beyond themselves though they are not often sure what that might be.
We are all aware both personally and from observation of this desire for something that we can not quite put our finger on that will make our life meaningful & fulfilling. The book of Ecclesiastes describes the results in seeking that meaning and fulfillment in something other than God. It is vanity, chasing after the wind, for only God can satisfy it. Eccl. 1:17 addresses the philosopher saying, “I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.” Eccl. 2 speaks to the hedonist – I said to myself, “come now, I will test you with pleasure, So enjoy yourself.” Verses 2-11 describe Solomon’s pursuit of pleasures of all types and his conclusion in verse 11, behold all was vanity and striving after the wind and there was no profit under the sun.” To those who seek fame – Eccl. 1:11, “there is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the latter things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.” Both the famous and infamous are forgotten. For those who desire wealth there is Eccl. 5:10, “he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.” And for those who want power, not only is that fleeting too, Eccl. 4:15, but even if you achieve it, what will be come of it? Eccl. 2:18,19 – 18 Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity.
Apart from God there is no meaning and purpose to life. Why else do you think so many have moved away from America’s heritage of being a hopeful, optimistic people to one in which there is so much cynicism, apathy, fatalism and nihilism? This is the reason for the high number of suicides in a wealthy nation. There are consequences when you turn your back on God. The suicide rate is particularly high among teens and among the senior citizens. The teens have bought into erroneous philosophies leading them to fatal decisions when they do not know enough to even understand what life is about. The senior citizens have spent there lives looking for significant meaning and purpose to life, but still have not found it, and the decline in their bodies becomes too painful for them to bear.
What significance does life have for those who believe they are just a bit of space dust that performs some very complex chemical reactions for a short time and then returns to space dust. What hope can there be for such people? Only in relationship to our creator do we find meaning beyond being a mere bit of matter in a meaningless existence, but this brings us to the second force that drives a person that craves God – A FULL RECOGNITION OF YOUR SINFULNESS and That ONLY GOD CAN CLEANSE YOU.
Last week I commented that evangelism in America is weak because it is so often man centered. An aspect of this is a superficial view of sin. Even those who still talk about sin and the need for God’s forgiveness tend to pass over it superficially. Verses such as Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” are quoted, but in doing so everyone is lumped together and we miss the personal nature of our sin. It is seen as enough if the person will admit they are sinner even if only in the generic sense. The truth is that real repentance only comes when the person understands that they have personally offended God in very specific ways by their willing sinful actions and attitudes.
Yes, all humans are sinners as a class because of the sin nature we all inherited from Adam. That is Paul’s point in Romans 5:12 – Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men…”. Isaiah’s point is similar in Isa. 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray. All humans are sinners, but neither the Prophet or the Apostle ended there. Paul adds at the end of verse 12 – …and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. Isaiah adds, Each of us has turned to his own way. Each human as an individual has also sinned. We are sinful as a class and as individuals.
Romans 3:10-12 which is a quote from Psalm 14:13 and 53:1-3 maybe a little more direct on this point. “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” That is pretty direct. There are no exceptions. But notice that this sets up a conflict within the human. On one hand there is this seeking after some meaning to life which can only be fulfilled in a relationship with God. On the other hand there is this fact of sin, and that no one seeks after God. There is no enjoyment in feeling guilty, and that guilt becomes a barrier from our coming to God. We want the guilt removed, but we cannot remove it ourselves, and we know that we can not come before our creator in such an unrighteous state. Only God can cleanse you.
Man does not seek God, but God seeks out man to save him from sin, its penalty and effects. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6), and at the same time no one can come to Jesus Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). Salvation is the work of God by which He justifies the sinner through the death of Jesus Christ on the sinner’s behalf and then extends the righteousness of Christ.
This sets up something that may seem a bit paradoxical, but is true. A shallow view of their sin brings a shallow desire for God while a serious view of sin brings a deep longing for God. Those with a shallow view of sin will treat it as no big deal resulting in a decreased need for God. Those that understand the true depth of their sinfulness will treat it very seriously and will desperately seek God’s help.
Let me give you an analogy. Who cries out for help more? The person who is drowning a little or drowning a lot? The perception of the danger results in the urgency of the cries for help. Lets take a person that cannot swim and put them on a tidal flat to explore. There are places where the tidal flats can stretch out a mile or more and a person who does not pay attention to the incoming tide can be in grave danger. A person in such a situation might not see a need for help since the water is only a few inches deep. They might even continue to look around thinking they can still easily make it back to safety on their own. However, the tide can come in faster than they can get back to safe ground. They have a shallow view of the danger and hence little or no desire to call for help. Now consider the reaction of this same person when they notice than in the span of a half hour the tide has risen from their ankles to their chest and they are still a 1/2 mile out from shore with the tide still coming in and the undercurrent trying to pulling them farther out. You can be sure that their desire for help has escalated dramatically.
The same is true with our sin. The greater my understanding of it’s true nature, its danger, and my inability to deal with it on my own, the greater my desire for someone to rescue me. Those who have a full recognition of their sinfulness have a deep craving for God and the cleansing only He can bring. David expressed this well in Psalm 51. His longing for God begins with his cry out to Him for mercy, then moves through confession and to a pleading for cleansing. “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
Notice the depth of confession in these next verses: 3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. 6 Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.
Next, David requests cleansing, but note within the request the reason why. 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice. 9 Hide Thy face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. David saw that his sin was offensive to God, and he was ashamed of it. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit. David does not want to lose his relationship with God. He longs for God, and as he came to grips with his sinfulness after Nathan confronted him, that longing for God increased.
Those who crave God understand that there is meaning in life only in relationship to Him. They also understand that only God through Jesus Christ can bring about the needed reconciliation because of our sin against Him. Add to this the fact that the closer you draw to God the closer you want to be to Him. The result of this longing, this craving for God, is a life that is centered on God and seeking His will in every aspect of life. Nothing else is more important.
How does all this figure in with worship that is truly pleasing to God? Simply this. Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:24 that God is spirit and those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. We have talked about this statement previously. My point here is that true worship occurs in spirit, not in ritual. It is more an aspect of who you are than what you do. It is personal in nature and comes from the heart. It is something that cannot be compartmentalized, separated out to be done only at specific designated times, for true worship is something that would control the whole of our being and not just portions of it.
A fellow named Ben Patterson but it this way, “…to worship Him as we ought is to become what we ought.” William Temple expressed it this way, “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purse the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
We are too easily caught up and lead astray by the secular/sacred dichotomy. We classify some things as secular and some as sacred. It is sacred to come to church, to sing hymns, to pray, to read your Bible and witness to your neighbor. It is secular to go to work, run errands, go shopping, invest your finances, read a book, watch TV, vote for a politician, take a shower or eat popcorn at the fair (I through that last one in because it is so rare that I have ever seen anyone take the time to give thanks to God before eating a snack at a fair). Yet, what does scripture teach us? There is not a secular / sacred dichotomy 1 Tim. 4:4,5 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. Col. 3:23,24 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Romans 12:2, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. So, 2 Cor. 10:5 tells us we are to be taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. We had better be careful about what we read and hear and watch and then judge it to see if it matches what Philippians 4:8 states we should be filling out mind with – that which true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. We must be careful not to be led astray or be caught up in philosophy, empty deceptions and traditions of men (Col. 2:8).
There is no separation of secular and sacred with a person who worships God in a way pleasing to God. Every activity of life from the mundane, like drinking a glass of water, to the extraordinary, like taking part in a worship service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem on Resurrection morning, is to be an aspect of worship. Why? Because worship is reverence, honor and glory directed to the Lord God, and what will do that the most is how you live.
The worship that pleases God the most is not what occurs here in this building on Sunday morning. It is you living your life throughout the week for His honor and glory. That is why God’s promise to you is to take care of the mundane matters of life for you. That is the meaning of Jesus statement in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” The “these things” are the normal aspects of life such as what you should eat, what you should wear, how long you should live.
The worship that pleases God the most is the life that is God centered. It praises Him for Who He is and what He has done. It thanks Him for every day of life, for water to drink and food to eat. It praises Him for the beauty all around in His creation, and the wonder of the human eye that allows us to see it. It marvels at His power in the wind, the storm, the pounding surf as well as even more powerful things such as volcanoes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. True worship stands in amazement at the vastness of the universe God has created as displayed in the stars. It is in awe of the intricacies and complexity of even the most simple life forms. In humble adoration we bow before Him as we consider His love to us in Jesus Christ.
But worship continues on in how life is lived. The one who craves for God will worship Him through obedience to His commands. This is obedience out of broken submission, but is driven by love and the desire to please Him. Worship occurs when you persevere in tribulation and bless those who persecute you (Rom. 12:13,14); when you regard others as more important than yourself and look out for their interests (Phil. 2:3,4); when all bitterness, wrath, anger, slander and malice is put away from you and your speech is the truth spoken in love with the purpose of building others up according to the need of the moment and giving grace to those that hear you (Eph. 4). True worship occurs when you husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church, and you wives respect your husbands and submit to their headship, and you children obey your parents, because these are the roles God has given to you (Eph. 5 & 6). Worship takes place when you employees serve your employers with good will as slaves of Christ, and you employers treat your employees fairly and do not exploit them (Eph. 6).
Your worship of the Lord is most pleasing when people look at you and see Jesus Christ living through you. This is the meaning of what Paul said in Gal. 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” Others should see your good works, which includes not just your good deeds, but your attitudes as well, and then be caused to give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:16).
God is your creator and He made you for Himself. Apart from Him you have no meaning and purpose to your existence. You have sinned against Him and offended Him, yet He loved you and Jesus Christ died in your place for your sins that you could be reconciled with the Father. Worship that pleases God understands deeply all this and results in a great longing for God and desire to please Him in every aspect of life. There is no separation between secular and sacred, for all is done for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
More tender than we can imagine,
More faithful than we can conceive,
Stronger than we can envision,
Wiser than we can believe –
What loss through our blindness we suffer
When God’s boundless love we ignore;
But when we just taste of its sweetness,
‘Tis then we fall down and adore!
– Laurie H. DuBose
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times God is referenced. Talk with your parents about the importance making God the center of your life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Define “worship.” What are the marks of true worship by the individual? A Congregation? What makes it difficult for you to make God first in every aspect of your life? David describes his need for God in Psalm 41. Describe your need for God in your own words. What is the message of Ecclesiastes? How have your experiences been similar to those Solomon describes. How would you describe the depth of your own sinfulness? What is your response to it? Can man seek God? Why or why not? How does God deal with man’s sinfulness? With your personal sinfulness? David describes his need for God’s cleansing in Psalm 51. Describe your own need for this in your own words. How is this a part of worship that pleases God? Is there a dichotomy between secular and sacred? Why or why not? How have you been living in such a dichotomy? What does God want our focus to be (Mt. 6:33)? Worship that pleases God responds in matters of daily life with praise to Him; submission to His will; having others see Christ living in you; and doing all things for His glory. Describe how you are doing in each of these areas. What do you need to do to change? When will you do it?
Sermon Notes – 5/1/05 a.m.
Worship That Pleases God, Part 1 – Selected Scriptures
God Must Be First in Every Aspect of Your Life
The Difficulties of Putting God First
Our Need for God
Chasing After the Wind
Ecclesiastes 1:11, 17; 2:1-11, 18,19; 5:10; 4:15; etc.
Cleansing from God
A God Centered Life
There is Not a Secular / Sacred Dichotomy
Worship that Pleases God:
Praises God for Who He is and what He has done.
Submits to God’s will and obeys His commands.
Occurs when others see Jesus Christ living in and through you
Is a life that does all things for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)
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